Above: Jess Beckerling, Alice Ford and Daniel Jan Martin
At last, WA has its own Forests Atlas, showcasing the forests of our south west, and it’s a beauty!
Thanks to this beautifully illustrated field guide, West Australians can now clearly see where our ancient native forests and river ways are situated, and where our remaining wildlife abounds.
It also clearly shows us where the land has been cleared, and where our ancient forests face further destruction.
Edited by Daniel Jan Martin, an environmental planner and lecturer in landscape architecture at UWA, Forest Atlas maps out the different regions, where the major tree group, waters and marsupials reside.
Daniel collaborated with Noongar Elder Dr Noel Nannup, and artists Alice Ford, Nansen Robb, Clancy Martin and Mariela Espino Zuppa.
The atlas focues on the 500 kilometre arc of forest that stretches from the city down to WA’s far south. The group has not just mapped our forests in detail along this treasured arc, they have collated photographs and illustrations celebrating its beauty.
Daniel, a map expert, explains the book’s significance. “A lot of these maps in the book are not easily publicly accessible. While the State Government has an open data policy, finding them is easier said than done. You can’t just go to a Web browser and easily find these maps!”
“To put all this together in the public domain was a really important reason we were putting together the atlas.”
It means that those with a keen interest in helping protect our forests can pinpoint the key ecosystems and show State decision makers why they must be preserved.
The regions mapped extend from the Northern Jarrah Forests – 200 km of the arc – down through the Sandy Basins, through the Whicher-Blackwood region, down to the Greater Kingston fauna hotspot, where there are threatened marsupials. Further south, we see the Greater Donnelly, the Warren River and the Southern Forests region – the tall forests extending to the south coast.
Each region possesses unique qualities, defined by ecotypes, major waterways and landscape structure.
“Moving through the atlas, we see the waterways, marsupials and birds and all different species of trees. There’s such an interconnected web of ecosystems that form the forest.”
“Thanks to this guide, you can now see it and the forest so clearly,” says Daniel with justifiable pride.
The guide includes illustrations of forest occupants like the tiny burrowing crayfish – “there are three threatened species, all painted to scale in the book,” says Daniel. And it scrutinises the various waterways, “ including the tannin waters of Walpole and the waters that stretch throughout the whole region. Through to the Jarrah, our beautiful forest.”
And then there’s the Western Wandoo – that critical habitat – the beautiful forest to the east of our forest arc, where the Carnaby’s cockatoos reside.”
Alarmingly, much of our treasured south west forest is still under threat, thanks to mining, over-zealous prescribed burning, rainfall decline, and dieback, the fungal plant disease that began to affect the forest more than a century ago.
“These are approved mining and exploration proposals through the south west forests,” Daniel points to one map, festooned with bright red markings.
The Forest Atlas also shows us the vast chunk of our Northern Jarrah Forest which has been cleared by US mining company Alcoa for bauxite over decades – a staggering 32000 hectares.
Even though logging of our ancient forests will be banned by the end of 2023, inexplicably, Jarrah being felled by Alcoa remains largely unprotected.
(Alcoa has made headlines recently for reportedly not followed the rehabilitation criteria set out by the State Government. )
And looking at the map of how dieback (a fungal plant disease which damages forest ecosystems and for which there is no cure) has spread across our southern forests, it’s clear that the disease – spread mostly by soil on machinery, vehicles, shoes and tools – abounds in the region Alcoa occupies.
While our forests and their endangered occupants face many ongoing perils, “ there’s real impetus at the moment to protect our forests,” says Daniel, with optimism.
“The State Government has proposed protecting more than 400,000 hectares, to be declared new national parks – but it has yet to designate specific areas.”
“So if this is to happen, where should they go?” he ponders.
Thanks to the Forest Atlas, bureaucrats and politicians may well now have a more precise idea of the most important regions in need of protection.
“ Based on all this understanding of these regions in the south west, we are optimistic the percentage of national parks and protected areas in the south-west will increase from 43 per cent, up to 52 per cent.”
The Forest Atlas, $70, can be purchased through WA Forest Alliance at the link here: